Number of locations
|More than 50|
|Mike Loney, COO and Lorne Goldberg, Owner|
Number of employees
Leeann Chin is a Bloomington, Minnesota-based Asian quick service restaurant chain, with over 50 locations throughout the Midwest, mostly in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. The chain was founded by its namesake, Leeann Chin, funded by Carl Pohlad (banker and former owner of the Minnesota Twins) and actor Sean Connery. The concept received Best Chinese Food and Best Takeout Food as well as being voted No. 80 in a list of the country’s top 100 by fast casual restaurant industry website FastCasual.com in 2011. It is currently owned by Los Angeles-based financier and former investment banker Lorne Goldberg, who also owns the popular Asian chains Pick Up Stix and Mandarin Express.
The chain offers chicken entrees, in addition to beef and shrimp options, prepared in Mongolian, Hunan, and Szechuan styles from mild to spicy. The restaurant recently added low calorie options and has its own proprietary frozen yogurt named Red Cherry.
The concept was founded by Leeann Chin, a Chinese immigrant who moved to Minnesota in 1957. She opened her first location in Minnetonka, Minnesota in 1980 and another in St. Paul in 1984. General Mills bought the name to her restaurants and the restaurants in 1984 with plans to expand the chain nationally. However, locations opened in Chicago faltered and General Mills put an end to opening new restaurants. The restaurants and name were bought back from General Mills by Leeann Chin Inc. in 1988, by Chin with the help of Capital Dimensions Venture Fund.
Lorne Goldberg bought the chain in 2007. Shortly thereafter, Goldberg invested about $8 million in the chain to revitalize the decor of the restaurants and improve its menu, introducing new items that were initially developed for Mandarin Express’ restaurants. The new items and location remodels quickly accounted for an increase of about 20 percent of sales. Goldberg also moved away from operating takeout counters within Lunds and Byerly’s grocery stores.
In 2011, Leeann Chin Inc. began to expand outside of its base in Minnesota’s Twin Cities with opening of its Fargo, North Dakota restaurant. In 2013, the chain launched its AsiaFit menu, a selection of low calorie (400 calories) stir-fry dishes, following a trend among casual-dining restaurants for lighter, healthier meals.
- "Intrigue surrounds Leeann Chin restaurants". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- "Top 100: Leeann Chins Asian Cuisine No. 80". fastcasual.com. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- Harlow, Tim (2010-03-12). "Leeann Chin, woman behind a Chinese food empire, dies at 77". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- "Leeann Chin Inc. shelves Asia Grille". Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- "Inside Track: Investments in Leeann Chin are paying off". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- "Leeann Chin CEO plans expansion -- and yogurt?". Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- "Leeann Chin owner buys Pick Up Stix from Carlson Cos.". Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- "Leeann Chin expanding to Duluth". Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- "Leeann Chin jumps on low-calorie restaurant trend". Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- "Leeann Chin: Reversal of fortune". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved November 26, 2014.